Hello all in CTK community,
I hope you are all well and keeping yourselves healthy, safe and as occupied as you can at this time. As we approach another week of lockdown, all kinds of thoughts and observations have pulsed through my mind over these past few weeks, so I put pen to paper (fingers on keyboard more like) and here I am writing my first blog with just a few of them.
Many of us are trawling through uncharted waters, settling into new routines and coming to terms with the ‘new normal’ – finding ourselves becoming teachers/ home tutors to our younger school going children, students getting used to distance learning,and some employees working from home instead of going out to a place of work. Our homes have extended into places of study, work, recreation and our usual domestic life. It’s quite a lot of roles to have co-existing under one roof, whereas before lockdown, our homes were more defined. A place to retreat and close out the day. However, for now its role has extended in order to keep our families and others safe from the Corona virus. It has however, become the place where families are spending more time with each other. We have been forced to stop, slow right down and learn how to do things differently. Even how we shop and how often we go out has been dictated by the quarantine.
All our Key Workers in the NHS, delivery drivers, supermarket employees, police, ambulance service and others, don’t have the choice to stay at home. They are busy looking after us, catering for our basic needs in terms of food, safety and health, whilst putting themselves on the frontline daily. Keyworker roles has been re- prioritised, in our view and are the most important jobs at this time. Their roles elevated as we appreciate how much we rely on them to keep our communities functioning in the way that we are used to, whether its refuse collectors or fruit pickers.
If I was told at the beginning of this year, that we would all be in this unique living arrangement, I would not have believed it, perhaps dismissing it as a dream. The New Year started off as just another new year and we all carried on as usual with our future plans, whatever they may have been. Some of us may have been looking forward to a family occasion or holiday while others were thinking about exams. We had heard in the news back in December that there was a Coronavirus discovered in Wuhan in China, but I think most thought it was just news, and at worst maybe it might be a repeat of the SARs virus from 2002 and MERs virus from 2012, where people ‘over there’ might be affected by it. None of us going about our daily lives ‘here’ would have thought that life could change so suddenly at most levels of human activity – not just in China; but for every human being on the planet. Too busy racing about like busy ants, so quickly it took us by surprise. It was no longer ‘over there’ but right ‘here’. How rapidly this tiny virus, only visible under a microscope spread across our planet wreaking havoc along the way. Stopping us in our tracks.
Governments and world leaders got their plans in place and we slowly but surely got ready for the lockdown. While waiting we witnessed panic buying like never before and where toilet paper, hand soap and hand sanitiser was walking off the shelves – being more valuable than gold or money itself; not to mention pasta and flour! The whole country had decided they needed to stock pile essentials. Home bread makers were being dusted off and re-emerging from corners and nooks in kitchen cupboards and put into use – some used for the first time. Somehow the only way of getting bread was to make it.
The jokes and the funny sketches flooded social media about shortages in toilet paper, keeping us amused while at the same time concern and worry for elderly parents and relatives flooded our minds about how they were going to survive in isolation. I found myself wondering when I would see family members again too, especially my mother and hoping that they would be safe and well. A very stressful time for all. There was that sense of not knowing what to expect hovering around all the time, like a great mill stone around our necks. Glued to the news daily, waiting for the government to give the word that we were to head for our homes and stay there.
So here we are several weeks into our ‘cocooning’ (this is how lockdown is described in Ireland). Up to now I have found that each of my days are a bit different. I’ve always got something to do, like baking something different and new not tried before, or doing a project with my youngest daughter on the Mayans, and all the usual jobs in looking after a family.
‘ I can focus on my own self-care, my own physical distancing, eating, resting and exercise, my perspective gratitude and kindness, when I choose to go to bed, the routine I set for starting and finishing work, limiting unhelpful news. Things I can’t control: the amount of toilet paper at the shop, what changes will happen next, how long this will last, other people’s choices…….’ (Adapted from the healthy work company)
I have found that having a routine gave me an element of control. Simple things like getting up, taking a shower and dressing properly. Putting on makeup if desired and doing your hair like you would when going out normally. It gives a feeling of being ready to start the day, in whatever way that maybe. Taking pride and care of yourself is a good feeling. Trying to eat proper meals – breakfast, lunch and tea – where possible each day is important for keeping nutrition and energy levels up, and it helps you to stay healthy. Sleep is important too to recharge our batteries, and help our mental health. Our mental and physical health is very important.
It’s very easy, to let things slip and have bad habits set in -not getting up until lunchtime or staying up all-night watching the television or gaming with friends until the early hours. Have a start and finish time for everything, like when life is running normally. It helps keep a routine going. Have a target to achieve every day. Last weekend I decided to make Macaroons with my daughter – I’d never tried them before. They turned out so bad, even the dog wouldn’t touch them. I know what we did wrong, so we’re going to have another go, including watching the over more carefully! Targets don’t have to be too challenging to begin with, but it is something to look forward to, and gives a sense of achievement when completed. For example learning to cook (lots of lessons on You Tube and other sites) and then surprising your family with a culinary delight of your creation. Helping out with other jobs like, mowing the grassif it’s something you didn’t normally do. As well as learning a new skill, helping with chores, helps the whole family. It builds on life skills for the future. There will be days when you’re not in the mood to do much of anything, and that’s ok too. After all these are very unusual times for everyone. Remember ‘Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.’(Max Hermannwrote in his poem ‘Desiderata’)
Staying in touch with friends and family is an absolute lifeline at any time but especially now. That connection while not being able to see them in person is priceless. While I find talking and communicating on social media does not replace personal contact, it certainly makes up for not being able to visit friends, family, and work colleagues. Social media has come into its own for so many – especially those who might never have Skyped or used WhatsApp before (other mediums are also available). Grandparents can see their grandchildren whether they live around the corner or the other side of the world. We’ve even had Karaoke on a Saturday night via Zoom (other social mediums are also available) and last week we played bingo! It was such a good laugh, the longest game of bingo I’ve ever played. I’m now talking to people that have been on my list to phone or visit for a while, but just didn’t have the time. Making contact with others especially our loved ones – keeps us connected. Our friends are the life raft in this unusualtime by keeping feelings of isolation at bay. It is very important to talk to each other, (especially those in our households’ parents etc.) whether it is a general catch up chat, or whether it’s about something in particular.
One of my highlights is our hour of daily exercise. No matter what we are doing, we make an effort to go out. We have a couple of places we go to which are within walking and cycling distance from our house. I have even taken up cycling again, which is something I’d fallen out of love with years ago, because the roads are too busy, and I don’t like the feeling of motor vehicles almost driving up on top of me. Now with most people home, the roads are much quitter so I’m enjoying my bike rides again. The fresh air and the freedom to take in and admire the beauty of nature at this fabulous time of year, and realise how lucky we are to live in such a lovely part of the country. To also realise, especially now, how lucky we are in the UK being allowed out for exercise, which wasn’t the case in Italy and Spain.
The incredible thing about getting out is, that you see lots of other people out, and sometimes you might bump into someone you know, and have a chat – at a safe distance of course. Each time I look out my living room window, I see different ages and abilities either walking, cycling, Jogging, pushing strollers or with children on scooters. The street is teeming with life with constant comings and goings throughout the day. I’ve not noticed this before because I’d be at work, and while the usual dog walkers and mums with toddlers would be out anyway, the sheer numbers of people taking advantage of getting out has increased. The beautiful spring weather has been a contributing factor to this vast exodus from cocooning each day. Lots of us (we hope) will be fitter when we do return to normal lives. Exercise has become part of our daily routines, rather than something you try to squeeze in whenever you can. It’s become a focal point for most – whether it’s Joe Wicks on You Tube or one of the numerous Yoga videos and keep fit classes on line. This is one time where there is no need for health campaigns, encouraging us to get regular exercise and to live healthier. We are even cooking and eating more home cooked food too, as restaurants and take aways are closed, but additionally, families have more time to cook and to try different ideas which is not such a bad thing.
If exercise is one of my daily highlights, then one of my weekly highlights is the Thursday night clap for our brilliant NHS staff and essential key workers. The one chance all week for all our neighbours to emerge and have a quick chat at a safe distance, or a wave of a hand or smile to each other while clapping,ringing bells, and banging on their pots and pans. The first week it happened, I couldn’t believe how emotional it felt. A simple coming together for a few minutes to show our appreciation and thanks by just clapping our hands. Simply incredible how such a gesture could rouse so much emotion and togetherness in us. Children have made lots of rainbows and they are in windows everywhere, and I’ve seen rainbows drawn on the pavements when out walking.
My other weekly highlight, believe it or not is to do the weekly shop. Prior to Covid-19, I wouldn’t say it was one of my favourite tasks but this changed after the first week of lockdown. It was another opportunity to get out, and I was a little excited. I made a list, gradually adding to it as the week went on, with everybody’s requests – making sure not to leave anything off it. Parking up and watching people take their place in an orderly queue was weird and alien. Everybody standing 2m apart keeping to the social distancing rules, there was an eerie quietness about it all. Heads turning if someone dared sneeze or cough, with all bystanders surveying if the offender used a tissue or the inside of their elbow.
Once inside the shop, the tape markings on the floor showed customers where to stand. Arrows directed the way to follow, all one way traffic (god forbid if you forgot anything and had to turn back!). Everybody followed like zombies with eyes on shopping lists, manoeuvring carefully and hoping that what they needed was on the shelves. Pausing only to pick up an item or to avoid getting too close to another customer. I got finished fairly quickly. It was strange everyone using lists where normally most people didn’t. Shopping now is focused with no meandering from aisle to aisle. Only a few people were allowed in at a time and even getting the shopping checked out at tills was done in rotation to help social distancing. While this way of shopping is new, it has become a bit more of a focused task, and perhaps will help us in future when lockdown is lifted, to buy only what we need, reducing waste and the amount going into landfill. The level of excitement about shopping has gone, but there are still highlights. One such occasion was when a shop assistant found flour in the store room after I asked if they had any (there was none on the shelf). I had a birthday cake to make and needed it. He came back holding two bags up to me. I was delighted and went home with a smile.
This time gives us an opportunity to be with our families. It has shown us to be adaptable – that we can work, learn and communicate differently via social media and the internet. It is also showing us, that we are capable of doing great things in times of crisis by showing compassion, love and caring – by fundraising, volunteering to look out for elderly people in our community.We have seen over the past weeks great acts of courage and heroism.
We have time to look at life in new ways, like making time for family, friends and even exercise for example. To learn new life skills, for example studying something you’ve not learned before at school, time to challenge yourself with tasks you wouldn’t think of doing before. Planning how to spend your day, something that will be a useful life skill in the world of work in future. Although the lack of freedom may be difficult at times, when we look back in time to come, we will see that we learned a great deal while we were in quarantine. Lockdown will not last forever, because change happens, and while many freedoms have been taken from us at the moment, there are many that hasn’t, and we need to be grateful for them.
It will be wonderful when this is over, and we can feel free again. There is so much to plan for and look forward to. The thought of it is very exciting – like where to go and who to see first…..
‘Not Everything is Cancelled’
Sunshine is not cancelled,
Spring is not cancelled,
Love is not cancelled
Relationships are not cancelled
Reading is not cancelled
Naps are not cancelled
Devotion is not cancelled
Music is not cancelled
Dancing is not cancelled
Imagination is not cancelled
Kindness is not cancelled
Conversations are not cancelled
HOPE is not cancelled.’ SimpleStencils.com #keeplookingup
In the meantime, be happy, make the most of each day and take time to enjoy nature, make the most of simple things with your family. Until we meet again, continue to stay safe and stay in touch with each other.